Category Archives: NineToFive outside the 925

3 Beautiful Things, the “Monday Morning in the City” Edition

one. A mother in dress clothes sat cross-legged on the floor of the train this morning, reading a children’s storybook to her young son in a stroller, and every one of us in the front half of that carriage was blatantly eavesdropping.

two. A (homeless?) man was playing the saxophone directly in front of a hotel on Market Street this morning. The hotel manager was exhorting him — politely but pleadingly in a low voice — to move to a different location. The saxophone man looked down, simply shook his head once, and continued his beautiful, haunting music. We passers-by watched, listened, and kept glancing back as we walked by. I felt badly for both of them, two men simply doing their job and trying to get through the day, but I hope the saxophone man is still there in front of the hotel, serenading San Francisco guests and pedestrians.

three. I ducked into Walgreen’s on my way to work with a dying phone battery, and stepped out two minutes later with a micro-USB charger that cost only $5 and is ORANGE. It makes me happy to see the sunshine-y color snaking across my desk.

It’s only 8am, and I think this day is just going to get better, inshaAllah.

(Just like old times: Tagging Sara I, Javed, Aisha for the 3beautifulthings reference, and Baji for the orange!)

3 Beautiful Things, the “We’re in Your Corner” Edition

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Sit together in yellow silence; Berkeley, CA, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

[Cross-posted at HijabMan.com.]

3beautifulthings:

1. SORRY. Recently, I learned a humbling — and very important — lesson from a friend: to apologize for things said or acts committed in anger, even if the anger was justified. There is not much to add to this, but I will say that I — who thought I’d come such a long way since my inability to apologize years ago — still have much to learn. If I have learned in the last several years to listen more to my conscience and refine my sense of compassion and appeasement, I have also learned just how trigger-quickly I can lapse into cold, cutting commentary without regard for how words burn at the other end. I am remembering now other conversations of this past year, and how the outcomes may have been different if I’d been gentler — not only with the person(s) at the other end, but also with myself. In an effort to prove my own strength and independence, my own will and rightness, I do myself a disservice in times like these. There is beauty in humility, and it takes strength to acknowledge (and embrace or amend) one’s weaknesses and shortcomings, and pride is not pretty. (Note to self: Don’t be this guy.)

2. LAUGHTER. No matter the level of stress at work, there is always at least one moment of levity during each day. Sometimes, I find myself twirling ’round and around on the twirly-chair at my desk, lobbing sarcastic and hilarious jabs at my coworkers before throwing my head back in laughter so loud it can be heard all the way down the hall. At such moments, I think to myself, “I would miss this.” Particularly now that we have disbanded a bit. Our organization recently relocated, and my “department” has been displaced from the spacious office we all shared to a building where we each now have our own, separate cubicles. There is more privacy — but also less, at the same time.

AH paused sadly by my desk the other morning and asked with his best hang-dog expression, “Can you move into my cubicle? I miss you.” I laughed at him, of course, but then I realized it’d been far too many days since we exchanged our ubiquitous highfives, and I was tempted to pick up my laptop and go back to a shared workspace. That was, of course, before I remembered how AH borrows my favorite pens to jot down notes whenever he’s on the phone, and then promptly loses them; throws whiteboard markers at me whenever I tease him too much; swipes my food when I’m not looking; makes me re-send him emails he never bothered to open the first time around; and asks rhetorical questions like, “You know what we should do, Yasmine?” and then ignores my cranky, “No, I don’t, tell me,” and launches into grand plans and ambitious projects that we will have time for only in 57 years — and I decided my own quiet little cubicle was probably good enough. I might even be able to finally nap under my desk without anyone noticing.

3. HELLO, I SEE YOU. (i) I stepped out for lunch at one of the local cafes recently, and found that I recognized no one there. This was problematic only because Julie’s used to be such a vibrant source of community for me, not only when my sister was an undergrad at Berkeley and I visited her on campus all the time, but also during all those post-Friday prayer lunches with friends, and during the iftar dinners that Julie’s hosted for Cal students during the month of Ramadan. But the students who frequent the place have changed, and so has the management of the cafe, not to mention part of the menu.

I consoled myself by ordereing my usual chicken-with-basil stirfry (that hasn’t changed), and found a small table in a corner of the courtyard, where I sat quietly, scrolled through my phone, gave every indication of not caring that I knew no one, and wished the afternoon were longer so I wouldn’t have to go back to work so soon. But within just a few minutes, there was F at my side, with a wave and a highfive and a “How are you?” — and even as my eyes lit up in surprise and I smiled back widely, so happy to see him, and even before I could open my mouth to reply with my automatic, “I’m doing lovely! How are you?” — he added after eyeing me during just a minuscule pause, “A little bit stressed?”

“I didn’t realize it was so obvious,” I said, chagrined, and made a mental note to work on my poker face. F pulled up a chair, asked incisive questions, listened patiently as I talked around mouthfuls of food — and offered options that I found myself scribbling down on the closest sheet of paper. I left Julie’s smiling, realizing anew (because I have to be reminded of this over and over) that it’s okay to be vulnerable sometimes, to give voice to one’s anxieties, and to discuss strategies with others.

(ii) After missing two separate classes of grad school in two weeks, I dragged myself to campus, sitting silently through most of the discussions (guess who was behind on the readings?) yet inwardly excited to be back in the midst of such thought-provoking conversations. Most of us are working professionals, balancing a full-time graduate program with full-time jobs. We are usually on campus only for classes, and even a month-and-a-half into fall semester, I know that I, at least, have not spent any length of time building meaningful relationships with my classmates outside our weekly gatherings. So, it was all the more touching when, at 930pm as we rose from our chairs and began slinging our bags over our shoulders in preparation for sliding exhaustedly out the door, A turned to me and said simply, “I’m so happy that you’re here. I missed you!” It’s no wonder I texted a friend a month ago with, “Status: I just got out of class. I LOVE school. And I mean that as non-sarcastically as possible.”

But I don’t want to write a love song for the world

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Post office errands, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

3 Beautiful Things, the downtown Berkeley post office edition

I. One morning, I was at the post office and somehow got into a conversation about languages with the woman at the counter who was helping me with my express-mail packages. And she told me that her now-29years-old grandson, almost 30, asked when he was 5 and they went out to dinner and saw a family who was communicating in sign language: “Mama Rita, are they speaking Spanish?”

And I, who have dreamed for years about one day learning to sign, couldn’t help but smile for reasons she probably wouldn’t have even guessed.

II. Another day, my co-worker and I ended up at the post office during our noon lunch-break, when, of course, the entire rest of the world who works in downtown Berkeley had the same brilliant idea. It was busy and crowded, our flimsy little ticket had the number 90 printed on it, and there were already 30 people in line ahead of us.

“God, I hate the post office,” I grumbled to R as the inexpressive employees at each window called people up one number at a time. There’s a reason why some consider visiting this post office to be equivalent to time and space travel to the Eastern Bloc, circa 1970.

“73…74…75…”
No one got up, but people shuffled their feet impatiently.

“76…77…78…”
No one moved.

“79…”

“80!” shouted a man sitting on one of the benches against the wall, waving his numbered ticket in the air.

“80!” said the woman at the window.

The entire building erupted in whistles, cheers, and applause as the man raised his fists in success and victory-walked to the window.

Everyone around me was smiling as we watched the lucky man swagger across the room, and I was laughing so hard I could feel my face turning red. “This is why I…freakin’ love…Berkeley!” I gasped to R.

“It’s like they called the winning number, and he won the lottery!” she exclaimed.

III. One afternoon, just as I settled on a bench with yet another numbered ticket, I felt a light punch on my shoulder, and turned around to find Nipun at the post office. I gawked. I know he and Guri live in Berkeley, but to run into him outside our usual context of Silicon Valley was mind-boggling.

“What are you doing here?!” we both exclaimed.

In the midst of catching up, I told him about the organization for which I now work, and how it’s an exciting time to be at the place, since it’s going through some great projects and transformations. “So they brought in Yaznotjaz to handle it, eh?” he grinned.

“Yeah! And, dude, I’ve already got half the staff saying ‘rockstar’ and giving highfives!”

We talked about the Wednesdays, and I mentioned we’d just moved, which is another reason to add to my list of reasons for having missed months worth of the beautifully soothing Wednesdays.

He squinted at me uncertainly. “Who’s ‘we’?”

I laughed. “The parents and I, that’s all. No, there’s no one exciting in the ‘we’ usage.”

He looked disappointed, and I laughed again. “Find me a rockstar, and there’ll be a ‘we’!”

“Should I put the word out in the community? I’ll have to blog about this, you know.”

I left the post office still giggling, and when I slowly strolled down the block back to my office, I sighted a pistachio-colored vespa – my latest favorite – parked in front of the building, and decided the day couldn’t get any better.

I think the shade of you is on the brink/of changing all the ways I see the world

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Purple at Casa420, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Walking out of work the other evening, I crossed paths yet again with everyone’s favorite security guard, he of the 86,400 seconds in a day.

As I strode past, he called out after me, “Purple is in!”

I turned back, confused. “Oh?”

“Yeah! Didn’t you know that? Purple is the color of the year!”

I laughed. “Well, clearly I’m off to a good start, then!”

This exchange, albeit brief, got me thinking about my style, which rarely follows the latest trends. I like wearing dark nailpolishes even in summer (on the extremely rare occasions I can actually manage to be non-lazy enough to paint my nails), and I hate skinny jeans, and I never know anything about the color of the year. On this particular day, I was wearing a pink dress, jeans, red shoes, and a blue-purple headwrap.

I have a lot of scarves, all organized by color in a dozen clear drawers for easy reference. Approximately thirty seconds of every morning are spent trying to figure out which scarf to wear; if I’m running late (as I usually am), I strategize this while in the shower.

Shoes are secondary. I never base an outfit around shoes, which is probably why I wear the same two pairs over and over. My main rule for shoes (except for fancy-schmancy high-heels which I wear to weddings or professional events and then promptly take off in the parking lot afterward) is based off this simple question: Would I be able to spend a day walking around the City in these? Granted, I’m not in San Francisco all the time. But any shoes that can withstand a day-long session of meandering through city streets (whether Berkeley, DC, Toronto, or Toledo) and up and down steep inclines (oh, hi, San Francisco and Granada and Fez) are the ones I want — and so far this has always meant flats and flip-flops. I may be short, but I’d rather be short and comfortable.

My only rule for pants of any sort: They must flare out from the knee. The wider the flare, the better, which is why I lovelovelove bell-bottoms.

A couple of years ago, my boss at my last job once scrutinized my outfit, head cocked to one side, and asked, “So, can you explain to me the thought process that goes through your head every morning when you’re getting dressed?”

I glanced down: Red dress, dark-pink tshirt, black cargo pants, my favorite gray sweater, unzipped. “What’s up with the way I’m dressed?”

“Nothing,” she said. “It’s just that I would never have thought of wearing those two shades together, but somehow you pull it off. And the headwrap just pulls it all together. And the earrings!”

Like much of the rest of the world, I, too, roll out of bed in the mornings after hitting ‘snooze’ too many times and stumble bleary-eyed towards the closet. Some days, the “What should I wear?” question is so overwhelming that I just opt for the most reliable combination of items. There are several things I wear together over and over, because I know they work. Other days, I spend a few extra minutes on this. But regardless of how long it takes to pull an outfit together, rarely do I not make the effort to get ready — even if it’s the weekend and I’m just going to be sitting on the couch, watching old Hindi films. I love pajamas just as much as the next person — but only at night.

And, of course, there are a few “rules” I swear by. Here, then, is a little bit of my methodology, for those of you who may be interested as well.
Continue reading

I said, Hey you, get out of my fog

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Serenity at Santa Cruz (ii), originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Some friends and I are going to be in Santa Cruz this Sunday, hanging out in the sunshine (and there damn well had better be sunshine, or I shall be pissed). I sent out a reminder email a few days ago with the following Highly Important Questions:

WHO’S IN?!

and:
WHAT CAN YOU BRING TO EAT?!

K has already promised to bring me homemade boulani, which makes me giddy like you wouldn’t believe.

A couple of years ago, I wrote:

That’s it. When spring is here for sure and the weather stays consistently warm, I’m heading down to Santa Cruz for some sunshine and sand.

It’s that time of the year again, and I know I must have been in Santa Cruz a couple of times since then, but I can’t recall – which is as good enough a reason as any to go back to play on the beach. And I just bought two new memory cards this evening (that brings the grand total to six now, I believe, which seems kinda ridiculous), which means I shall spend the next few days taking photos again, too. It’s been a while. (Note: It’s never a good idea to go to any electronics store the day after you’ve been paid. Flush with money, it’s so hard to resist the lure of those sleek and gorgeous dSLRs, and their solid weight in your small hands. Maybe if you stop spending all your money on boulani and gelato, you, too, could be the proud rockstar owner of a fancy-schmancy digicam. Something to think about.)

What are the rest of you rockstars doing this weekend?

[+]

The original caption on this photograph, when it was posted to flickr over 2.5 years ago, in August 2006:

This photo (and the previous one I posted from the same day) makes me so happy.

Today I:

1. whined all morning about how hungry I was
2. asked my "fake internet friend" in Toronto about Bob Marley recommendations for Hashim
3. decided my TO friend was awesome because he never fails to pass along advice and recommendations (and so good-naturedly, too: "Anything for a Pathan girl from the West Coast I’ve never met" – who wouldn’t want to be friends with this kid?)
4. whined to my TO friend about how hungry I was, which resulted in him sending me Zabihah.com links for Silicon Valley and suggestions like, "Cheese pizza? Grilled cheese sandwich? [*looking at the Zabihah.com link*] You could go to Red Kwali, that new Malaysian/Thai place that opened up."

5. went to lunch, chauffeured by my buddy, Z, in his spiffy brand-new car with the new-car smell
6. sat around and ate lunch and talked about our lives and watched the co-workers make chai and refused all offers of chai (Z: "You could just smell mine") and pretended to get back to work, and agreed when Z said, "I wish I could just do this for the rest of my life."
7. got off work at 3.30pm! and drove all the way home with the sunroof open, because it was such a beautiful day

8. stopped by the bank, and laughed when the teller asked me, "Do you know Asad? He has the same last name as you do, and he comes in here all the time." [Clearly, she doesn't understand what a common last name I have.]
"No, but I wish I had enough money, that I could afford to come in here all the time!"

9. had two women curiously ask me, during two separate occasions, how I tie my headwrap, and I had to explain and gesture with one hand because (both times) the other hand was full.

10. stopped by the 7-Eleven I used to frequent as a child (for cherry slurpees) and as a college student (for energy drinks and Pringles, right before hitting the road to commute to suckool), because I wanted to see if – miracle of miracles – they had blue raspberry slurpees in stock. But they didn’t, damn it! How difficult could it BE?! Freakin’ hell.

It’s okay, though. Right now, I’m heading out for a dinner with a friend, and an open-mic poetry session in Oakland.

Also, did I mention this photo makes me happy?